German engineers are testing a hyperspectral camera, using information collected across the electromagnetic spectrum to "look inside" crops and analyze data unavailable to the naked eye.
The information is collected by the camera attached to the bottom of an airplane's wing. Once images of a field are captured, special software scans the crop's biochemical composition, revealing information about every essential part of the plant.
According to the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas at Austin, hyperspectral remote sensing combines imaging and spectroscopy in a single system, it's most widely used by geologists for the mapping of minerals.
The software was developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg. The process reveals the hyperspectral "fingerprint" of the plant. Using the system, researchers can analyze a field and modify cultivation to maximize yield.
"Every molecule absorbs light in a very specific wavelength range," explains project manager Prof. Udo Seiffert. "The camera chip we use covers a large area of the relevant wavelength spectrum and, together with appropriate software, is able to scan the biochemical composition of every single recorded pixel precisely."
The technology could be increasingly useful as farmers dealing with dry summers and adverse weather conditions.
Fraunhofer IFF says the system can detect diseases such as fungal infections before the plant displays symptoms and photos can determine the source of the infection in a field quickly.